By Zaid Jilani
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R ) has made headlines for resigning from a number of boards – both non-profits and corporations. The media has widely recognized the moves as aimed at preparation for a 2016 presidential run. The very same week, he announced that he will be in Greenwich – a tax haven and center of monied elite – to fundraise for his political action committee. The Greenwich fundraising meeting is just a bookend to seven year that Bush spent on one goal alone: making huge amounts of money for himself from corporations that will eagerly seek access to a possible future President Bush.
A Quest To Improve His Suffering Millionaire Life
Bush ended his final term as Florida’s governor in 2007, having turned Florida’s political future far to the right. His net worth had declined by about $700,000 – as he entered the governor’s mansion in 1999 with a net worth of $2 million and he left at around $1.3 million; The New York Times’s Michael Barbaro writes that Bush left “public office seven years ago with a net worth of $1.3 million and an unapologetic determination to expand his wealth, telling friends that his finances had suffered during his time in government.”
One of the first corporations that handed Bush a board position (and that of paid consultant) was a start-up called InnoVida. From December 2007 to September 2010, the start-up paid Bush $468,901 for consulting and “reasonable expenses.” But the young building materials manufacturer hit bankruptcy in 2011, and its owner was arrested for $40 million in investment fraud in 2012. The following year, Bush repaid $270,000 of the funds he was paid by the company.
Attaching himself to firms as they were on their way out seems to be a trend for Bush. He sat on the board of Swisher Hygiene, a soap maker, which its executives later acknowledged “their financial statements were unreliable and their accounting practices inadequate” as the company collapsed. Lehman Brothers hired Jeb Bush as a consultant in June 2007, and in the summer of 2008 he tried to convince Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to invest in the firm – it collapsed just months later, part of the larger financial crisis.
Lehman’s collapse didn’t entirely end Bush’s Wall Street payday – before his resent spree of resignations, he reportedly got over a million dollars a year from Barclay’s, which took over much of Lehman. He also served as a director for the hospital chain Tenet Health Care, which raised the ire of some on the right; Tenet’s CEO was a big booster of Obamacare, and the chain has profited thanks to the health care overhaul. Interestingly, Bush stepped down from Tenet before leaving any of the other corporate boards – as if he wanted to send a clear message to GOP primary voters that he was finally ending his own personal Obamacare profiteering.
The New York Times estimates that Bush collected as much as $3.2 million from his corporate positions, according to public filings, but also notes that he gave over 100 speeches, many of them for as much as $50,000 a speech.
Unlike the board positions, which can be found through public corporate filings, it’s impossible for us to know exactly how many speeches Bush gave to a variety of corporations and other private interest groups – or how much money we made off them. If Bush files for the presidency, however, he will have to disclose sources of income, which would give us a bigger window into this world. We do know, from various sources, that Bush has given speeches to a variety of organizations including health care conferences, grocery industry associations, and chambers of commerce.
A Revolving Door Election?
Bush’s path of making millions from paid speeches, corporate board appointments, and other forms of post-office payoffs is not unique. It’s similar to the way Bill and Hillary Clinton amassed a wealth of over $100 million after leaving their own positions in government.
If the election pits Hillary Clinton against Jeb Bush, what we may witness is not just a clash between two of America’s most prominent political families, but all of the corporations – Barclay’s, Goldman Sachs, Tenet Healthcare, Citigroup – that gave them their fortunes.